Noam Chomsky warns the Republican Party is “marching” the world to destruction by ignoring the climate emergency while embracing proto-fascism at home. Chomsky talks about the January 6 insurrection, how neoliberalism is a form of class warfare and how President Biden’s climate plans fall short of what is needed.
Democracy Now! December 30, 2021
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to our discussion with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. Nermeen Shaikh and I recently spoke to him. He was at his home in Tucson, Arizona.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you have called the Republican Party the most dangerous organization in human history. You’ve also called the political leaders a gang of sadists. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this. But also, in all of your 93 years, have you ever seen such an anti-science, anti-fact trend in this country before? And then, if you can talk about how it links up with other such movements around the world and how it should be dealt with?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it’s a fact that there has been a strain of anti-science sentiment in significant parts of the United States for a long time. This is the country that had the Scopes trial. There’s an unusual power in the United States of evangelical, anti-science extremism.
But as a political movement, it’s — has nothing been like what it is in the contemporary period. The Republican Party, under Trump, and his minions — he basically owns the party — they have been in the lead of trying to destroy the prospects for organized human life on Earth, not just unilaterally pulling out of the Paris Agreement, but acting with enthusiasm to maximize fossil fuel use, to dismantle the systems that somewhat mitigated their effects, denial of what’s happening, reaching a huge number of loyal almost worshipers, partly through their media system, in other ways.
When the United States is the most powerful, important country in world history, when it races to the precipice, has an impact on others. Other things that are happening are bad enough, but with the United States in the lead and marching to destruction, the future is very dim. And it’s our responsibility here to control it, to terminate it, to turn the country back to sanity — don’t even like to say “back” — turn it to sanity on these issues, before it’s too late.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Chomsky, you’ve warned of a severe threat from a resurgent proto-fascist right here in the U.S. and spoken out — you’ve spoken out against the general right-wing shift across the political spectrum in the U.S. If you could explain what you think is behind that, and if you see any prospects in the near future for its reversal?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we have been through a 40-year, 45-year assault on the general population within the framework of what’s called neoliberalism. And it’s had a very serious impact. There are even some measures of it. So, the RAND Corporation, super respectable, did a study recently of the, what they politely call, transfer of wealth from the lower 90% of the population — that’s working-class and middle-class — the transfer of wealth from them to the very rich during the last 40 years. Their estimate is on the order of $50 trillion. They call it transfer of wealth. We should call it robbery. There’s plenty more like it, keeps being exposed. The Pandora Papers that came out revealed another aspect of it. That’s not small change. CEO salaries, management salaries have skyrocketed. A large part, probably a majority, of the population by now is basically surviving paycheck to paycheck, very little in reserve. If they have a health problem or something else, they’re in deep trouble, especially with the lack of social support in the country.
Even trivial measures that exist everywhere are very hard to implement in this country. We’re seeing it in Congress right now, measures like maternity leave, which is everywhere. I think there are a couple of Pacific islands that join the United States in not having paid maternity leave. Go to the second-largest country in the hemisphere, hardly a site of enormous progress, Brazil, women have four months guaranteed paid maternity leave, which can be extended a couple of months, paid for by the Social Security system. In the United States, you can’t get a day. And it’s being — it’s right at Congress right now. The Republican Party is 100% rock-solid opposition to this and other measures, including some weak but at least existing measures to mitigate the climate crisis, 100% Republican opposition, joined by a couple of Democrats, the coal baron from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, the leading recipient in Congress of fossil fuel funding, dragging his feet on everything, joining the 100% Republican opposition, Kyrsten Sinema from my state, huge recipient of Big Pharma, other corporate funding, also dragging her feet. Even the simplest things, like what I mentioned, are very hard to get through in a country that’s been poisoned by right-wing propaganda, by corporate power. It goes way back, but it’s expanded enormously in the past 40 years.
You look up “neoliberalism,” the word “neoliberalism,” in the dictionary, you find bromides about belief in the market, trust in the market, fair — everyone’s got a fair shake, and so on. You look at the reality, neoliberalism translates as bitter class war. That’s the meaning of it, everywhere you look, every component of it. The RAND, the $50 trillion robbery is just one sign of it.
When Reagan and his associate Margaret Thatcher on the other side of the Atlantic, when they came in to power, their first acts were to attack and undermine, severely undermine, the labor movement. If you’re going to have a sensible project, if you’re going to carry out a major class war attacking workers in the middle class, you better destroy their means of self-protection. And the great — the major means are labor unions. That’s the way poor people, working people can organize to develop ideas, to develop programs, to act with mutual aid and solidarity to achieve their goals. So that has to be destroyed. And that was the major target of attack from the beginning, many others. What we’re left with is a society of atomized people, angry, resentful, lacking organization, faced with concentrated private power, which is working very hard to pursue the bitter class war that has led to the current disastrous situation.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you how January 6th, how you see it playing out. Do you see it as really not so much the birth but continuation of a proto-fascist movement? You’re in Arizona, the recounts over and over again of the votes, questioning Democratic votes all over the country. Where do you see the U.S. going? And do you see President Trump becoming president again?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very possible. The Republican strategy, which I described, has been successful: Do as much damage as you can to the country, blame it on the Democrats, develop all sorts of fanciful tales about the hideous things that the communists, the Democrats, are doing to your children, to the society, in a country which is subjected to social collapse, to atomization, to lack of organized ability to respond in ideas and actions that can be successful. And we’re seeing it right now. So, yes, it’s very possible that the denialist party will come back into power, that Trump will be back, or someone like him, and then we’ll be simply racing to the precipice.
As far as fascism is concerned, there are some analysts, very astute and knowledgeable ones, who say we’re actually moving towards actual fascism. My own feeling is, I would prefer to call it a kind of proto-fascism, where many of the symptoms of fascism are quite apparent — resort to violence, the belief that violence is necessary. A large part of the Republican Party, I think maybe 30 or 40%, say that violence may be necessary to save our country from the people who are trying to destroy it, the Democrat villains who are doing all these hideous things that are fed into their ears. And we see it in armed militias.
January 6th was an example of — these are people from basically petit bourgeois, moderately affluent Middle America circles, not — there were some militia types among them who really feel that it’s necessary to carry out a coup to save the country. They were trying to carry out a coup to undermine an elected government — it’s called a coup — and came unfortunately close. Luckily, the — and they’re now taking — the Republican Party is now taking sophisticated measures to try to ensure that the next time around, it will succeed.
Notice they are treating the January 6th coup activists as heroes: “They were trying to save America.” These are signs of massive social collapse, which show up concretely in the fact that people literally do not have enough financial reserves to put themselves through a crisis. And, of course, it’s much worse when you go to really deprived communities. Like, household wealth among Blacks is almost nothing. They’re in severe problems. All of this in the richest, most powerful country in the world, in world history, with enormous advantages, unparalleled, could easily lead the way to a much better future.
And it’s not a utopian dream. Let’s go back to the Depression. Happens to be my childhood, can remember it well. Severe crisis, poverty, suffering much worse than today, but a hopeful period. My own family, unemployed, at first immigrant, working-class, were living with hope. They had the unions. My aunts, unemployed seamstresses, had the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, cultural activities, mutual aid. You could go on a week’s vacation. A hope for the future, militant labor actions, other political actions, sympathetic administration led the way to social democracy, inspired what happened in Europe after the war. Meanwhile, Europe moved to fascism, literal, hideous fascism. The United States, under these pressures, moved to social democracy. Now, with supreme and bitter irony, we’re seeing something like the reverse: The United States is moving towards a form of fascism; Europe is barely holding on to functioning social democracy, got plenty of their own problems, but at least they’re holding onto it — almost the reverse of what happened in the past. And we can certainly go back not only to the ’30s, but something much better than that.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Chomsky, could you — you’ve spoken, of course, now about the Republican Party. Could you give an assessment also of the Biden administration so far? You spoke earlier of the climate crisis. Earlier this year, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued its report, after a decade, which the U.N. secretary-general called “code red for humanity.” And just days after, as you’ve mentioned, Biden called on OPEC to start increasing production of oil. So, if you could comment on that, Biden’s policies on climate, but also on other issues?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s a mixed story. His domestic programs are, frankly, considerably better than I anticipated. But they’re being — they’ve already been sharply cut back. The Build Back Better bill, that’s now being debated and, without enormous public pressures, not likely to be passed, is a sharply pared-down version of what first Bernie Sanders produced, Biden more or less accepted and cut it back somewhat, now cut back much more sharply, may not even get through in its pared-back form.
As I said, the Republicans are 100% opposed to allowing what their own constituents very much approve of, and managing the propaganda system so that their constituents don’t even know about it. Remarkable results showing up in polls about the Build Back Better bill. If you ask people about their particular provisions, strong support. You ask about the bill, mixed feelings, often opposition, feeling the bill, which contains the provisions they want, are likely to hurt them. Furthermore, turns out they don’t know what’s in the bill. They don’t know that it contains the provisions that they approve of. All of this is a massive successful indoctrination campaign of the kind that Goebbels would have been impressed with. And the only way to overcome it, again, is by constant, dedicated activism.
Take the climate program. Biden’s climate program was not what was needed, but it was better than anything that preceded it. And it didn’t come from above. It was the result of significant activist work. Young activists [inaudible] got to the point of occupying senatorial congressional offices, Nancy Pelosi’s office. Ordinarily, they’d be kicked out by Capitol Police. This time they got support from Ocasio-Cortez, joined them, made it impossible for the police to throw them out, got further support from, as I mentioned, Ed Markey. Soon they were able to press Biden to develop, to agree to a climate program that was a big improvement on anything from before it — in fact, even by world standards, one of the best. Well, the management of the Democratic Party didn’t like that, wasn’t having it. They actually cut it out of their webpage before the election and tried to block it. And it’s been reduced by them and by the solid Republican opposition demanding that we move as quickly as possible towards disaster. Well, it’s now cut sharply back.
You go to Glasgow. Lots of nice words, including from President Biden. Take a look at what’s happening in the world outside of the halls in Glasgow. Different picture. Biden came home from Glasgow and opened for lease the largest giveaway in U.S. history of petroleum fields for exploitation by the energy corporations. Well, his defense is that his effort to stop it was blocked by a temporary court decision, so he had no choice. Actually, there were choices. There were other options. But the message that it sends, stark and clear, is that the institutions of the society, the federal institution, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary, those institutions are incapable of recognizing the severity of the crises that we face, and are committed to a course which leads to something like species suicide.
The only force that can counter that was actually present at Glasgow. There were two events at Glasgow. There was the pleasant talk but meaningless verbiage inside the halls. There were the tens of thousands of demonstrators outside the buildings, young people mostly, calling for measures, real measures, to allow a decent, viable society to develop, not be destroyed. Those are the two events in Glasgow. The question of which one prevails will determine our future. Will it be heading towards disaster, or will it be moving towards a better, more livable world? Both are possible. The choice is in our hands.
Truth is not fake news.
Justice is not fake news.
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